Walking the Walk: The ADHD Advice That Experts Heed
Five therapists and educators share the ADHD advice that they follow in their personal and professional lives to stop procrastinating, improve communication, and manage time more effectively.
From time management issues to relationship dilemmas, personal challenges vex experts in the field of ADHD just like everyone else. So how do they deal with the struggles they help clients solve? Here’s what a few experts told ADDitude.
Roberto Olivardia, Ph.D.
Clinical psychologist, lecturer in psychology, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
On how to stop procrastinating …
I use the “account-a-buddy” system to prevent procrastination. I text a friend or group of friends and let them know about a task I have to do, and ask them to suggest an album I can listen to on Spotify while doing it. It holds me accountable and I get to listen to an album new to me in the process!
On solving hurt feelings stemming from a difference of opinion …
I start by focusing on intentions. Oftentimes, the difference in opinion arises from how those intentions get communicated or executed. But if you open with — “We both want the same thing here. We are on the same team. But maybe we are each paying attention to a different coach telling us how to score the goal” — I find that it brings the focus back to what you have in common.
Ann Dolin, M.Ed.
On dealing with a child’s unwillingness to do homework …
A friend once told me, “If you think you might get into a power struggle with your child, then you already are in a power struggle.” Both of my kids have ADHD, and I make a real effort to avoid that daily homework drama to preserve our relationship.
Most of the resistance surrounding homework stems from the child not understanding the material. When this happened with my younger son, I would help him get started. Whenever he would get frustrated and start to argue, I would put the ball back in his court by saying, “I’ve noticed this assignment is really hard for you. I’ll be over here checking my work email. When you’re ready, come back to me.”
If you sit by your child and help them do each step of each assignment, it sets a bad precedent, and your child may become reliant on you. I didn’t set high expectations for homework. I just encouraged them to get it done and left the quality up to the teacher. If my younger son, who was often more resistant, would slap something down on his paper and say he was done, I would leave it at that. It just needs to be complete, and that’s how you avoid the constant power struggles. Maintaining a good relationship with your child is far more important than turning in perfect homework assignments.
Wes Crenshaw, Ph.D., ABPP, CST
On encouraging independence in teens and young adults …
An intervention I’ve used for many years to help parents manage young adults (YAs) has come in pretty darn handy in my own life in the last 10 years. My daughter just sat for her bar exam and my son is in his sophomore year of college, so I consider it effective, especially when you start in the almost-teen years.
Consider every act you are about to do for your child as either beneficent or enabling — and enact only the beneficent ones. Beneficence means to give in a way that brings about good. First, the act must really help the YA on the core task of development, which is moving toward independence and self-sufficiency. Second, the act must not harm the giver.
The opposite of beneficence is enabling, or solving a problem that the YA is capable of solving on their own. Enabling leads to increased dependency and limits creativity and problem-solving. It’s often tough to discern one from the other and then take only the beneficent path. I spend a lot of time with families figuring out in any given situation which is which.
Sharon Saline, Psy.D.
Clinical psychologist, and author
On time management …
Two time-management patterns especially challenge me: First, I often underestimate how long a task will take and then rush to get it done at the last minute. Second, I may overestimate how much time a task will take, feel overwhelmed by it, and procrastinate.
Over time, I’ve learned to manage my time better. I use alarms and notifications that give me ample warning when I need to transition and add an extra 10 minutes for unforeseen issues. I also cut my expectations regarding what I can accomplish in a day. Instead of attempting eight things, I’ll aim to do three, and return to my list if there is time left. I link certain tasks and projects to different days of the week based on urgency and importance. By working with due dates, I can allocate my time better.
Lastly, I am committed to practicing self-acceptance around this issue. If I’m running late, I own it, and let people know in advance as much as possible. Then, I consider what different choices I could have made to be punctual without shaming myself. All these techniques help me to figure out what is possible, be accountable for my actions, and leave room for improvement.
Evelyn Polk Green, M.Ed.
Immediate past president, Attention Deficit Disorder Association
On task management …
Organizing and initiating a task are my two biggest ADHD challenges, and that means that my house/desk/car are a mess. I’ve solved that by paying for things like a housekeeper and laundry service, using meal plan kits and food delivery services often, and paying a monthly fee for unlimited car washes and interior cleanings. I know not everyone can afford all of that, but I encourage folks to think about what not paying for those things costs them in the “ADHD tax,” and realize you’ll probably save enough to do at least some of this.
On taking ADHD in stride …
Despite being aware of my ADHD, and being an ADHD advocate for almost 30 years, I still experience many of the same challenges that other individuals with the disorder do. I have to say that I have learned to take it in stride and even laugh (once I’m done being angry/frustrated/unhappy with myself because of whatever ADHD mess I’ve gotten myself into). That is actually one of my most important coping skills: acknowledging that I’m going to mess up, not beating myself up (too much) when it happens, finding something funny about the situation, and then moving on.
How To Stop Procrastinating & Time Management Tips: Next Steps
- Read: The Procrastinator’s Guide to Getting Things Done
- Download: 19 Ways to Meet Deadlines and Get Things Done
- Read: Stop. Procrastinating. Now.
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